Sunday, November 23, 2014

The Brooklyn Dodgers, Roberto Clemente and the Rule 5 Draft


With the Rule 5 Draft quickly approaching it's interesting to see what teams are doing to transition players in and out of their 40-man rosters.  Sometimes trades are consummated, as evidenced by the two most recent Dodger trades with the Rays and Diamondbacks, but other times a club may gamble a bit by leaving a good prospect unprotected in hopes they get passed over by other clubs.

This brings up the main reason why I am writing this post.  The most famous Rule 5 Draftee to ever get plucked off a teams roster and to go on to fantastic heights is Roberto Clemente.  And, as I'm sure you likely know, he was taken by the Pittsburgh Pirates off the 1954 Brooklyn Dodger roster.

That's right folks, the great Roberto Clemente was once a Dodger... shoulda been a Dodger.

This makes me wonder, what the heck happened?  How could a team known for an excellent farm system and having a great ability at recognizing talent not protect a future star like Clemente?  Is there a story behind this?

Well, I'm currently reading an biography by Andy McCue on Water O'Malley called, "Mover & Shaker: Walter O'Malley, the Dodgers, & Baseball's Westward Expansion," and it does its best to explain the machinations behind the scenes.  Below is an excerpt.  BTW, this book is one of the most detailed books I've ever read about O'Malley's Dodgers, and I highly recommend it to any Dodger fan.  Now on to a passage in the book regarding Roberto Clemente:
The other player was another Hall of Famer, Roberto Clemente, and, again, roster limits played a role.  Clemente signed in February 1954 for $15,000.  Because that was over $4,000, the bonus rule mandated the Dodgers put him on their roster or risk having him drafted by another team the next winter.  Bavasi felt the Dodger roster was full and decided to take the risk.  It did not work.  That December (Branch) Rickey and the Pirates drafted Clemente.

In more than three decades of talent evaluation, Buzzie Bavasi made few mistakes.  Clemente was clearly one of them, and an unnecessarily defensive Bavasi told many stories over the years about how it happened, some involving Walter O'Malley.

In the earliest rendering Bavasi gave the loss the "irrelevant" label by saying the Dodgers had signed the Puerto Rican outfielder only to keep him away from the Giants.  A few years later he was resigned.  "That was probably my biggest mistake," he told Charles Maher of the Los Angeles Times.  "We can blame the rules for part of it, but part of it was our judgment."

Later still, his version began to have scapegoats.  The first was O'Malley.  Bavasi said he was fully aware of Clemente's talent and knew Branch Rickey and the Pirates were convinced of it, too.  Bavasi said he went to Rickey, his old mentor, and called on his friendship.  Rickey agreed not to take Clemente.  But, Bavasi said, Rickey and O'Malley got into a shouting match over some unrelated issue at an owners meeting.  O'Malley cursed Rickey and Rickey changed his mind.

In later renderings a racial issue was added.  Bavasi told author Thomas Oliphant both the O'Malley cursing tale and that O'Malley ordered him to limit the number of blacks on the team because he was fearful of fan and team reaction.  Clemente was a very dark-skinned Latino, and in Bavasi's final version it was now O'Malley's partners who had vetoed the idea of more blacks, an angle he also told Oliphant.  He cited the partners as Jim Mulvey and John Smith.  Mulvey was back on the board of directors in 1954, but O'Malley had full control.  Bavasi evidently forgot Smith had been dead neary four years by the time the Dodgers even signed Clemente.
We may never know the real reason for the ill-fated decision to not protect Roberto Clemente from the Rule 5 Draft, or if there's really any reason at all.  After all, sometimes things just happen, and as a Dodger fan that fact only helps you appreciate how crazy this game really is.  As a side note, yesterday was the 60th anniversary of the plundering of the Dodgers by the Pirates.  That sounds so apropos, doesn't it?

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Saturday, November 22, 2014

Another Dodger Trade - Welcome to the Blue, Mike Bolsinger!


Following on the heals of the Joel Peralta trade, the Dodger add another arm to the club by picking up Diamondbacks prospect Mike Bolsinger for cash.  He is a 26-year old right-handed starting pitcher drafted in the 15th round of the 2010 Draft out of the University of Arkansas.  Bolsinger got his first taste of Major League play last season.  Via a Dodgers press release:
Bolsinger, 26, appeared in 10 games (nine starts) for the Diamondbacks last season, going 1-6. He made his Major League debut on April 14 vs. the New York Mets, tossing 3.0 innings of relief and then made his first big league start on April 19 at Dodger Stadium. The 6'2 hurler recorded his first-career win in his next outing on April 24 at Wrigley Field, tossing 6.1 innings and limiting the Cubs to just one unearned run. He was 8-3 with a 3.93 ERA in 17 games (16 starts) for the Triple-A Reno Aces in 2014, striking out 88 batters in 91.2 innings pitched.
Regarding his start against the Dodgers last year., via Jon Weisman at Dodger Insider:
You might remember against the Dodgers on April 19, Bolsinger took a 4-0 lead into the fourth inning before allowing a three-run homer to Andre Ethier and eventually getting the loss in an 8-6 Dodger victory.
Bolsinger was also tangentially involved in a nasty bench-clearing brawl last year in AAA against the Isotopes that resulted in 10 ejections.  Via a report by Chad Moriyama at Dodgers Digest about the incident:
Now fast forward to yesterday during Arruebarrena’s first plate appearance. (Reno) Aces pitcher Mike Bolsinger clearly wanted to send a message and threw at Erisbel with the first pitch, but the plate appearance continued on relatively normally after that. Eventually, Arruebarrena struck out, and while he stood there to argue the strike three call, catcher Blake Lalli seemed to brush by him with a purpose.
So, is Bolsinger worth a spot on the Dodger 40-man roster?  Well, I'll refer you to a story written by Jared Kwart at MoxyBall at the close of the season:
Moving over to the National League, Mike Bolsinger jumps off the page as someone who has had a lot of bad luck in 2014 as well. He has a steady base of skills from a K (8.25 K/9) and BB (2.92 BB/9) perspective. With a 3.31 xFIP compared to a 5.50 ERA, we don’t have to look much further than a .355 BABIP to see we can expect better things from Bolsinger once positive regression kicks in.

While he’ll never be an ace in a major league rotation, he’s shown the ability to get batters out at the highest professional level and should have a nice career. He’s back in AAA for the time being, but should get a look in 2015 to help the Diamondbacks at the major league level over the course of the season. Deep league owners and NL-only players should keep this name filed away for when he surfaces on the big league roster as a potential back-end starter option to eat innings and chip in a few Ks.
So, I guess taking Bolsinger is a gamble, but a worthwhile one.  When you consider that all it cost us was some cash instead of a player, you certainly have to like the bet the Dodger front office is making.  Bolsinger has some positive attributes; such as his strike out and walk rate, and at the very least provides some minor league depth should the Dodgers need an arm to start a game.  Who knows, maybe they can convert him into a long guy out of the pen.

In celebration of Bolsinger's arrival to the Dodgers I made the above fantasy card for him.  I used a photograph grabbed from a photo from Zimbio (Norm Hall/Getty Images North America) and the 1970 Topps Baseball card design.

Below are the career stats for Joel Peralta, via Baseball-Reference:


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Blog Kiosk: 11/22/2014 - Dodger Links - Jackie Robinson, Kershaw's New Home and a Bob Miller Documentary


UCLA honored Alum Jackie Robinson yesterday afternoon by naming their athletics facilities the Jackie Robinson Athletics and Recreation Complex.  Jackie's wife, Rachel who was also a graduate in nursing at UCLA, was on hand to celebrate the event.  In the photo above she is standing with Chancellor Gene Block, pic via @UCLAAthletics on twitter.  Via Jason Dratch at the Daily Bruin:
“UCLA was the place where our lives together began and where many of our values and goals were established,” Rachel Robinson said. “Jack was very proud to be Bruin. We thrived in this university that supported our goals and achievements.”

During his speech, Block focused on the influence that Robinson still has on the UCLA community today.

“This is a place about people and people’s impact on the world,” Block said. “Over the course of the last century, UCLA students and facility have distinguished themselves as barrier breakers, transforming our world through discoveries and actions that pushed past previously established limits of knowledge and societal conventions.”
Below are some more links to check out:
  • Newest Dodger Adam Liberatore is on twitter.  You can follow him here: @adamlib21.
  • Via Jennifer Karmon at Spaces on Yahoo, "Clayton Kershaw buys family-ready home base in Los Angeles."  Wow!  He's got quite a nice place in Studio City now.
Clayton Kershaw and his wife, Ellen, purchased a house in the Valley for $4 million, scarcely 10 miles from Dodger Stadium. The high school sweethearts (dating back to ninth grade!) are expecting their first child, a daughter, in January.
“He has been so spectacular that you realize this is a guy who’s going to be around for a long time,” (Rich) Mueller said. “You look at Sandy Koufax, who retired in 1966, what he accomplished in his short period of time. Kershaw, if he stays healthy, is going to surpass some what Koufax did, which is unconscionable.”
  • In early December a documentary about LA Kings announcer Bob Miller will open at Regal Cinema L.A. LIVE (across the street from STAPLES Center).  It'll begin on December 5th and will run for a minimum of one week.  All proceeds from ticket sales will go to the Kings Care Foundation.  The documentary is called "Voice of the King."  Below is a trailer.  Go here for the website.

Video Link:

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Friday, November 21, 2014

Blue Friday at Dodger Stadium - Turner, Ferrara and Leary Signing on 28th


More details for this winter's Holiday meet & greets are slowly being released.  In addition to the two mall events slated for early December at the Westfield Topanga and Glendale Gallerias, the Dodger will host a Black Friday event at Dodger Stadium on Friday, November 28th from 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM.  Go here for information.
Shop for the holidays and receive 20% off select merchandise at the Top of the Park Store! Dodger dogs will be available for purchase, and fans can take pictures with the Dodgers bobblehead character. Renew your season ticket or mini plan at the ballpark, or sign up for the wait list!
Furthermore, there will be player appearances at Dodger Stadium, as well.
Justin Turner: 11am-1pm   
Al Ferrara: 1pm-3pm   
Tim Leary: 3pm-5pm


They also provided some updates regarding player appearance times for the two scheduled mall events at the Westfield Topanga and Glendale Gallerias on Sunday December 7th and Saturday December 13th, respectively.  Check them out below, or go here for information:
Westfield Topanga
6600 Topanga Canyon Boulevard
Canoga Park, CA 91303
Sunday, 12/7
10am-5pm
Dodger Appearances:
Orel Hershiser: 11am-1pm
Justin Turner: 2pm-4pm

Glendale Galleria
100 West Broadway, Suite 700
Glendale, California 91210
Saturday, 12/13
10am-5pm
Dodger Appearances:
Fernando Valenzuela: 11am-12pm
Nomar Garciaparra: 2pm-4pm


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A Look at the Vintage "Weirdo" Bobbleheads - 4 are on Auction at ITPC

I was reviewing Inside the Park Collectibles current auction and came across a group of comical vintage bobbleheads that I knew little about.  So naturally, I spent a little bit of time doing some research on them.

These bobbles are commonly referred to as "Weirdo" bobbleheads and they were produced in the mid-60's by a Los Angeles manufacturer called Kreiss & Co.  This company was known to have made other similar toys and trinkets for Disney and other gift shops throughout the country. 

As you can see in the photos below, the "Weirdo" name for these bobbles is very apt.  They are funny little toys that poke fun at the game and its characters.  Also, each bobble type came with a hanging tag featuring a funny phrase describing the bobblehead.

The auction house, Inside the Park Collectibles, has four of the seven (nine total if you include known variations) Dodger "Weirdo" bobbleheads known to exist.  By the way, "Weirdo" bobbles were also made for the San Francisco Giants and it's assumed an equal number of available bobble types were made for them, as well.  From what I understand, though, only a handful of the Giants bobbles are known to exist.

I also need to mention that these bobbleheads are extremely scarce.  So scarce, in fact, that one Dodger version had sold for $5,000 at auction, and that was one of only two known to exist.  Also, the bobble that was sold was found in the collection of Hall of Famer Andre Dawson - a noted bobblehead collector.  Anyway, check out the four "Weirdo" bobbleheads available on auction below, and I have included photos of the other three "Weirdo" types that are known to exist for your edification.  With regards to variations, two of the "Weirdo" types are known to have black face characters.  I make note of which ones in the descriptions below.

Of special note, much of the information attained for this post was found through an article written by Lou Criscione (an owner of Inside the Park Collectibles) at Collectibles Central and Warman's Bobbing Head Field Guide also written by Criscione.  Clearly, Lou and his company Inside the Park Collectibles are the experts in this collecting field.

Crybaby

The first bobblehead that Inside the Park Collectibles has on auction is commonly known as "Crybaby" - for obvious reasons.  Check out the auction here.  This bobble comes with the original hanging tag, which says,
"The Kids Back Home Usta Give Me Four Strikes!"
No doubt this guy feels entitled to another pitch and wants to make sure the entire world knows that.

Grouchy

This next available bobblehead is called "Grouchy."  Check out the auction for this bobble here.  This also comes with its original hanging tag; which says,
"Nice Guys Always Finish Last"
This is an obvious reference to Leo Durocher.  He is the originator of this famous phrase. 

Screw Ball

This next bobblehead is known as "Screw Ball," and as you can see it is the black face variation.  Check out the auction here.  So, two different "Screw Ball" bobbles are known to exist - the white face and black face variations.  This particular bobble does not include the original hanging tag, but it is known to say,
"No Wonder I Couldn't Hit It, He Threw Me A Screw Ball!"
Also note that the uniform number uses a fraction.

The Sweeper

This next bobblehead is called "The Sweeper," and it is known to also exist in black face.  The variation below is the white face version.  Check out the auction here.  This particular bobble does not include the original hanging tag, but it is known to say,
"I'm Ready For That Clean Up Spot, Boss!"
This is the last of available "Weirdo" bobbleheads available on auction through Inside the Park Collectibles. 

For reference sake I have included a brief description and a photo of the remaining three "Weirdo" types known to exist.  It could very well be that more exist but remain undiscovered.  So, this may not be a complete checklist.

Stealing Base

This next bobblehead is called "Stealing Base."  I do not know what the original hanging tag descriptor said.  If you happen to know please pass that along.


Bather

This next "Weirdo" bobblehead is called "Bather."  As I briefly mentioned above, this was the bobble that Lou Criscione indicated had once been a part of Andre Dawson's collection.  According to Lou, there are only two specimens known to exist today. Per his story at Collectible Central:
We got a lead on a small collection of dolls owned by now Hall of Fame Baseball star- Andre Dawson. Mr. Dawson had collected with his son while doing card shows and had a small but impressive collection that included all of the rare Major League Baseball Black Face dolls. As his son got older, he lost interest in the dolls and Mr. Dawson decided to downsize. We arranged to meet at his house. We were a little nervous, as we really had never dealt with any celebrities. Mr. Dawson could not have been more hospitable and gracious as we entered his home. We were brought into a hobby room that displayed all of his trophies and memorable bats & balls. The bobbing heads were laid out on a beautiful pool table, all neatly boxed. To our surprise, we opened a box and found a doll that shocked us both- another Dodger Weirdo- one with a grinning player holding a bathing beauty in his arms. We had bought and sold thousands of vintage dolls at that point and had never seen or heard of this doll.
This also comes with its original hanging tag; which says,
"I Got Her on a fielders choice"
BTW, the "Bather" bobblehead sold for over $5,000 and is highly sought after.

Fly Swatter

This next "Weirdo" bobblehead is also extremely rare.  It is called the "Fly Swatter" and features a bobble that nods at his waist.  The bobble is also described as holding a fly swatter in his right hand, but that is not visible in the photo below.  It is not known what the hanging tag descriptor says.  This photo was found via Lou Criscione at Collectibles Central.

Like I said, more "Weirdo" bobbleheads may still exist, so keep your eyes out for them.  You never know if you've come across a little gold mine.  The more common "Weirdo" bobbles (those found in the above mentioned auction) could sell in excess of $1,000, but have been known to be found at prices ranging from $500 to $1,000.  These are certainly must-haves for vintage bobble collectors. 

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2014 Topps Heritage High Number Baseball - All the Dodger Cards

On Wednesday Topps released their newest set.  Instead of rolling out boxes with randomly inserted packs of cards, they produced a 100-card complete set box that includes one random Real One Autographed card.  The set is called Topps Heritage High Number and an unopened box will cost about $90.  This is an companion set to their Heritage cards released in March.  Check out all of the Dodger cards below.  Go here for a complete checklist.

Base Set

#H502 Dee Gordon                                 #H530 Onelki Garcia

#H547 Alex Guerrero                           #H551 Erisbel Arruebarrena

Real One Autographs

#ROA-AG Alex Guerrero                    #ROA-EA Erisbel Arruebarrena

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Welcome to the Blue, Joel Peralta & Adam Liberatore!


Late last night, during the wee hours of the evening, the Dodgers announced their first real trade of the winter season.  As many had hoped, the Dodgers were not satisfied with just righting the ship by displacing their former General Manager with a troupe of egghead sophisticates regarded by many as the cream of the crop.  Oh no... They had business to attend to and after several weeks of debating, negotiating and studying they finally made their move.

Last night, the Dodgers consummated a trade with the Tampa Bay Rays, former home of recent hiree Andrew Friedman, and I like it.  We had a situation where two teams had a need to fill, so a deal got done.  For the Dodgers, they received veteran right-handed reliever and Bellflower product Joel Peralta and 27-year old AAA lefty reliever Adam Liberatore.  The Rays got fireball throwing righty Jose Dominguez and single-A prospect from Los Alamitos Greg Harris.

This move shores up a Dodger bullpen that was largely ineffective last year.  Peralta has been an able setup man the past few years and should slot in nicely behind closer Kenley Jansen.  The second piece in the deal, Adam Liberatore, is a bit of an unknown, but based on his recent stats in AAA he may turn out to be a diamond in the rough.  As a 27-year old lefty he recorded the best season of his career for the Durham Bulls last year.  He got into 54 games and struck out 86 batters while batters hit just .187 against him.

For the Rays, they made some room for some players they wanted to protect from the upcoming Rule 5 Draft while picking up the hard-throwing Jose Dominguez and a young prospect with some promise.  Per Schmitty at X-Rays Spex:
The Rays can’t protect everyone on their list, and if Liberatore was to be exposed, the thought process would be to get something else in return. Still, the lefty Liberatore had some shiny stats last year at Triple-A, including a 1.66 ERA and 1.65 FIP while striking out nearly 12/9. He takes the place of top-ten prospect Onelki Garcia, a southpaw reliever the Dodgers lost earlier today to the White Sox after designating from the 40-man. Dodgers fans are excited to have the Durham southpaw, and rightfully so.
Here are some other stories worth checking out about this trade:
On a side note, don't you find it strange that the trade that actually gets done is one that hasn't been bandied about the "hot stove/rumor mill" like some teenage gossip about who's dating who?  Strange, eh?  And increasingly awkward for those who think the 'hot stove' means anything.

In celebration of their arrival to the Dodgers I made the above fantasy cards for them.  I used a photograph grabbed from a photo for the Peralta card from a Tampa Bay Times article and the 1974 Topps Baseball card design.  For the Liberatore card I grabbed a photo from MiLB article and the 1964 Topps Baseball card design.

Below are the career stats for Joel Peralta, via Baseball-Reference:


Below are the career stats for Adam Liberatore, via Baseball-Reference:


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Blog Kiosk: 11/21/2014 - Dodger Links - Vin Scully and Yasiel Puig


Dee Gordon and Cincinnati Reds speedster Billy Hamilton got together for a photoshoot yesterday for Under Armour.  Photo above via @BillyHamilton on twitter.

BTW, last night the Dodgers executed their first real trade of the winter.  I'll have more on that soon.

Below are some links to check out:
Yaroslavsky had made it known often that he craved Scully's job. Scully responds in an amusing video I'm told was recorded in one take with no script and no Teleprompter.
Which is not to say that Puig simply eliminated a hole. In working to get better against inside fastballs, Puig subsequently opened himself up a little more against fastballs away. It’s hard to protect against all pitch types in all pitch locations, and adjustments tend to have consequences. So now Puig has just changed the distribution of his weaker areas. But between years, he set his mind to getting better against something, and it appears he mostly pulled it off. That’s not something we often observe, which is what makes this so interesting. 
  • The Dodgers have lost reliever Onelki Garcia to the White Sox, via Jeff Todd at MLB Trade Rumors.
  • Sign-ups for the 2014 LA Dodgers Foundation Youth Camp for the weekend of December 20th are current ongoing.  Go here for information.  Steve Yeager and Mickey Hatcher are just a couple of former Dodgers who will be there to teach the kids.  Also, a current Dodger player will also make an appearance.  It is for boys and girls ages 7 to 12.
  • GCRL shares more Steve Garvey oddball cards; including a bunch of postcards.
  • Via Jerry Crasnick at ESPN.com, "MLB addresses pace of play in AFL."
"I tell people, 'It's more complex than just having the clock,'" Haines said. "All these variables come in, and baseball plays happen. I don't want to speculate for MLB, but I think it's hard to make it that black-and-white. I want the umpire's discretion involved. You don't want a game decided on a technicality."

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    Thursday, November 20, 2014

    Some Singing Dodgers and Jackie Robinson Rarities at SCP Auctions

    Following up on my post from Monday featuring a unique personal note from Jackie Robinson to a fan, I though I'd share more Dodger goodies available on auction at SCP.

    ---------------------

    Check out this signed and personalized laminated photo of six members of the 1963 World Championship Dodgers signing a tune.  From left to right: Frank Howard, Tommy Davis, Ron Perranoski, Willie Davis, Don Drysdale and Moose Skowron.  I am unsure what event this photograph was taken at, but don't they all look rather dashing?  I wonder what they are singing.  Maybe a showtune; which were popular in those days.  Do you think they took their act to Broadway, or Las Vegas?

    This photo originates from the family of Moose Skowron.  BTW, this identical group got together on national television to sing a song.  A video of that appearance is below.
    (Auction Link)

    As I promised above, here is a video of the troupe singing together during an 1963 taping of the Joey Bishop Show.

    Video Link:

    Here is something you do not see everyday.  Below is a game-used bat that was once held by Jackie Robinson.  It has been documented as being from the 1949 season, an MVP year for him, and is thought to be one of only two known bats from this season to still exist.  I suspect this will sell for a bunch.
    (Auction Link)

    I know this last item will sell for a whole truckload of greenbacks.  Featured below is Jackie Robinson's personal presentation Hall of Fame plaque given to him during his induction into the Hall of Fame in 1962.  This item originates from the Jackie Robinson estate.

    Unfortunately, the Hall didn't give inductees bronze-like plaques to keep in their homes.  Instead, this presentation plaque is an illustration (photograph) that was been mated and placed within a brown leather frame.  From the auction description:
    It should be noted that the original (1962) plaque made no mention of the fact that Robinson broke baseball’s color-barrier and differs from that which resides in Cooperstown today. The current plaque was re-cast in 2008 with text added in the final line that reads: “Displayed tremendous courage and poise in 1947 when he integrated the modern major leagues in the face of intense adversity”.
    (Auction Link)

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    Blog Kiosk: 11/20/2014 - Dodger Links - Seager, Haren and Puig


    Clayton Kershaw and AJ Ellis visited the Toros del Este of the Dominican Winter Leagues yesterday.  In the photo above they are standing with Luis Dorante and Amaury Telemaco.  Kershaw threw out the first pitch.  Photo above via @DodgersPR on twitter.

    Below are some links to check out:
    During the minor league regular season, Seager led all players with 50 doubles. It was the first time a minor leaguer reached the 50-double mark since 2011 (Toronto farmhand David Cooper had 51 for Triple-A Las Vegas). There have only been four occurrences where a minor leaguer has had 50 doubles in a season since the turn of the century.
    "My signing with the Dodgers last year and my decision to exercise my player option were based on my desire to play in Southern California near my family," Haren told ESPN in an email. "I had other opportunities but at this point in my career I have no interest in playing in a city away from my family."
    "All of the discipline they have," he said. "Everything is about respect, almost as if [the players] are apologizing. And the fans are great. They support their team from the first inning to the ninth. That's a nice thing."
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